A YEAR after taking over as the President of Sri Lanka amid economic and political chaos, Ranil Wickremesinghe will travel to India for a bilateral visit on July 20-21.

While Wickremesinghe has visited India several times in various capacities in the last three decades, this is his first visit since assuming office in July last year.

Announcing the visit, the Ministry of External Affairs said on Tuesday: “At the invitation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the President of Sri Lanka, Ranil Wickremesinghe, will visit India on an official visit on 21 July, 2023. This will be President Wickremesinghe’s first visit to India since assuming the current responsibilities.”

Earlier this month, Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra had visited Sri Lanka to prepare the groundwork for Wickremesinghe’s visit.

During his visit, Wickremesinghe will meet President Droupadi Murmu and hold discussions with the Prime Minister and other Indian dignitaries on a range of issues of mutual interest, the MEA said.

“Sri Lanka is an important partner in India’s Neighbourhood First policy and Vision SAGAR. The visit will reinforce the longstanding friendship between the two countries and explore avenues for enhanced connectivity and mutually beneficial cooperation across sectors,” it said.

The Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry said Wickremesinghe’s visit is aimed at further advancing and consolidating the longstanding bilateral relations between the two countries. The visit takes place as both countries celebrate the 75th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations this year.

Wickremesinghe took over as President of the cash-strapped country following the ouster of Gotabaya Rajapaksa last July, after months of protests on the streets.

Last week, Wickremesinghe, also the country’s finance minister, said Sri Lanka would want to see the Indian rupee used as much as the US dollar.

The visit comes as Sri Lanka’s weak economy shows signs of recovery after the 2022 financial crisis, when it was hit by a severe shortage of foreign exchange reserves. India helped Sri Lanka with dedicated credit lines for fuel and essential items.

The island nation, which declared its first-ever credit default in mid-April last year, secured a bailout of US$ 2.9 billion from the IMF in March this year, spanning over four years, subject to reforms being put in place.

India and Sri Lanka have had a growing economic and commercial partnership, which has witnessed considerable expansion over the years. The India-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement (ISFTA) in 2000 contributed significantly towards the expansion of trade between the two countries.

Economic ties between the two countries also include a development partnership that encompasses areas such as infrastructure, connectivity, transportation, housing, health, livelihood and rehabilitation, education, and industrial development.

India has traditionally been among Sri Lanka’s largest trade partners, and Sri Lanka remains among India’s largest trade partners in the SAARC. India is also one of the largest contributors to Foreign Direct Investment in Sri Lanka. A number of leading companies from India have invested and established their presence in Sri Lanka. (IndianExpress)